Kanye, Trump rekin­dle mem­o­ries of Elvis, Nixon

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Ron Maxey Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Yes, it was a bizarre stream-of-con­scious­ness en­counter that played out in the Oval Of­fice Thurs­day when Kanye West came call­ing on Don­ald Trump.

But it’s got noth­ing on what hap­pened there in 1970 be­tween Richard Nixon and Elvis.

West, a rap­per and one of the pres­i­dent’s high-pro­file sup­port­ers, opined dur­ing a 10-minute mono­logue on ev­ery­thing from hy­dro­gen-pow­ered planes (Trump won­dered aloud if he could ditch Air Force One in fa­vor of a hy­dro­gen plane), to al­ter­nate uni­verses (there’s one where Kanye is Chicago gang founder Larry Hoover, which is why he has to free Hoover from a Colorado su­per­max pri­son), to how his red MAGA base­ball cap makes Kanye feel like Su­per­man.

Lest we be too hard on Kanye, how­ever, we should rewind nearly a half-cen­tury to what — at least un­til now — was per­haps the most in­trigu­ing in­ter­sec­tion of po­lit­i­cal power and star power.

That would be the day shortly be­fore Christ­mas in 1970 when Elvis left Grace­land and, by way of a side trip to Cal­i­for­nia, landed in Richard Nixon’s Oval Of­fice seek­ing to be­come a “fed­eral agent at large” to help fight drug abuse.

The un­likely en­counter — chron­i­cled in a cou­ple of films, the 1997 “Elvis Meets Nixon“and 2016’s “Elvis & Nixon“— be­gan with Elvis storm­ing out of Grace­land af­ter an ar­gu­ment with wife Priscilla and father Ver­non over Elvis’ spend­ing habits.

Elvis flies to Wash­ing­ton, but then flies to Los An­ge­les to meet up with friend and Mem­phis Mafia con­fi­dante Jerry Schilling. They then re­turn to­gether to Wash­ing­ton and meet up with an­other Elvis friend and Mem­phis Mafia mem­ber, Sonny West.

Along the way, Elvis de­cides he wants to be­come a “spe­cial agent” for the Bureau of Nar­cotics and Dan­ger­ous Drugs, a bureau within the Jus­tice Depart­ment and a fore­run­ner to the present-day Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Elvis’ peo­ple talk with Nixon’s peo­ple and, yada yada, a meet­ing no one ex­pected was fi­nally ar­ranged for Dec. 21 at the White House.

Wear­ing a black cape and a belt buckle gaudier than any­thing Kanye’s cre­ative mind could imag­ine, Elvis met with Nixon in the Oval Of­fice. The two awk­wardly made their way through a roughly half-hour con­ver­sa­tion that touched on drugs, com­mu­nism and the Bea­tles. They also dis­cussed the dif­fi­culty of per­form­ing in Las Ve­gas.

And Elvis didn’t come empty-handed — he gave Nixon a Colt .45 pis­tol and sil­ver bul­lets, which were quickly taken away by Se­cret Ser­vice.

In the end, Elvis asked for and re­ceived from Nixon the spe­cial agent badge he so de­sired. A happy Elvis then gave Nixon a hug, not un­like the embrace be­tween Kanye — “Let me give this guy a hug” — and Trump.

A black-and-white photo of Nixon and Elvis shak­ing hands af­ter their se­cret en­counter is one of the most re­quested pho­tos in the Na­tional Ar­chives.


One of the last times Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and Las Ve­gas met came in 1970 when Richard Nixon and Elvis shook hands in the White House. EGIL BUD KROGH / WHITE

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